Talladega National Forest was listed among the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Top 10 Endangered Places in the Southeast for 2013.
The nation’s largest environmental advocacy group in its report released today says “fracking” on the 43,000-acre forest poses an “ominous threat” to camping, fishing, hiking, hunting and other recreational spots and has the potential to endanger the habitats of several protected species and the quality of drinking water for local communities.
Induced hydraulic fracking is a process used to release petroleum, natural gas or other substances for extraction. The Bureau of Land Management has considered selling drilling leases that would allow hydraulic fracturing on about 43,000 acres of the forest’s public land, the law center report states.
“Fracking has been linked to many environmental and public health risks, including contaminating groundwater, rivers, and streams; polluting air quality; depleting water resources; and industrializing forests and rural lands—impacts that would seriously affect fish, wildlife, recreation, and local communities in and around the forest,” a statement on its website reads.
“The Talladega National Forest is a state and national treasure,” said Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Birmingham office of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “SELC will remain vigilant about threats to the Talladega, including those from oil and gas development in the public’s forest.”
Talladega National Forest was the only Alabama site to make the center’s fifth annual 10 top list. Other sites the Southern Environmental Law Center lists as endangered includes:
· Metro Atlanta’s Water Supply
· Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina
· Cape Fear Basin, North Carolina
· Courthouse Creek, North Carolina
· Waccamaw River, South Carolina
· Goforth Creek Canyon, Tennessee
· Mountains in Virginia and Tennessee
· Charlottesville, Virginia, based on a proposed $244 million bypass
· Southside, Virginia, and the Roanoke River Basin
SELC Legislative Director Nat Mund blasted efforts by congressional and state lawmakers to weaken environmental laws and enforcement. “There’s absolutely no reason why we have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy – in fact, the two go hand-in-hand,” Mund said. “History shows that investing in clean water, healthy air and clean energy can create jobs and save money – and lives – in the long run. And yet many of the South’s natural treasures are a stake because of short-sighted attempts to weaken environmental safeguards under the guise of fiscal responsibility.”
The SELC has made energy issues a major theme of this year’s list and has included four urgent priority projects for its Clean Energy Program. Fracking in Talladega National Forest is among those four projects. Coal ash pollution in the Waccamaw River, mountaintop removal coal mining in Virginia and Tennessee and possible uranium mining in Virginia are the other projects of emphasis.
This is the fifth SELC annual listing of endangered places. For more information about SELC’s 2013 Top 10 Endangered Places List, click here.
Weld has sought comment from the Bureau of Land Management. If officials respond, this story will be updated.